'The Carnival is over'
Nancy was sitting in her makeshift office in the San Antonio field office. She was on edge already then the phonecall she was waiting for came and time slowed. She picked it up and didn’t say anything.
“Hello? Is this Jaeger?” A thick spanish accent said confused by the silence.
“Yes, sorry, this is Nancy Jaeger”
“I’m Legate Dargento. We have analysed the data you’ve sent to us and forwarded that data to Interpol and they have a match. We’re faxing you the information as we speak. I hope this helps you in your investigation.”
“Yes, I’m sure it will” Nancy was elated but felt a hint of sadness creeping in from an unknown place, a cold shiver. “Thank you”.
“You’re most welcome”.
She hung up the phone and just sat there for a minute with her elbows on the desk.
“What is it, did the tests come back, was that Interpol?”
“They’re faxing it over now.”
Porter thought the kid looked hungry and he might loosen up if he put some food in him. So he took him across the street to Raising Cane’s chicken fingers, ordered some texas toast and lemonade.
It was a standard diner set up in any roadside chain. Booths running down the windows with blue seat cushions. The walls were all red with pictures of dogs and old movie stars on them. There were square tables running along the centre of the room at right angles to eachother. It was busy enough to cover whatever they had to say to eachother without anyone hearing it. Kids having birthday parties, old people, teens, college kids, the works.
He picked it because it was close and on a busy road out in the open. He picked a booth facing out so he could see any cars coming. The kid was facing away with his cap and dark glasses on, plasters on his face. It was awkward the kid didn’t want to talk but by this time Porter knew he remembered him.
“Do you remember me?”
“I heard you scared your mother pretty good, that stunt you pulled”
The kid, shrunk back into his seat, the hairs on the back of his neck brushed backwards. His lip quivered, but with what it wasn’t clear. After a moment in a harsh whisper he said “That woman is not my mother”.
Porter’s heart gallopped and hurdled his stomach. His blood started rushing in from all over and he could almost hear it. His breath getting hot in his lungs as he tried to calm himself, tried to keep his face poker.
The kid looked at him and he was scared, really scared this time. He took the glasses off and threw them across the table and rubbed his eyes. He slumped in his seat and suddenly looked older and he looked Porter in the eyes, with those deep brown eyes.
“Who are you?” The words shook in Porter’s throat. They seemed to make the ground shake, like he was talking to devil himself. The angel Gabriel from high revealing himself in human form. His bones quaking at the revelation of truths to come. Come flowing out in a torrent that wouldn’t stop until they washed everything away.
The waitress came with their food. They sat across from eachother waiting for her to put it down and go back to the counter. She put it down and Johnny smiled at her and she walked away. His eyes hung down and he turned back to Porter. He breathed in deep his hand on the counter scratching at his thumb with his forefinger.
“My name is Cisco Nulidad and I’m wanted by Interpol”.
Nancy fought the urge to bob on her heels, she speed walked down the hall to the fax machine. She could feel the eyes on her but this was her moment, she couldn’t let the excitement get to her. She could hear the fax machine going as she walked. She sped up, Con was behind her.
It spitting out page after page after page, some in English some in Spanish. There was so much of it she could hardly believe it, she felt like a kid on Christmas. She could barely look at the pile afraid one part of it would be revealed too quickly and spoil the whole surprise.
When the fax machine stopped she scooped up the hot pieces of paper and bundled them into a folder she had ready. Then speed walked them back to her office pushing past Con, she hardly even noticed him at this point. She needed to get back to her office. There was something about it that told her she needed the privacy of a closed door to see. She didn’t need anyone to share in this moment.
She slapped the folder down on the desk and started from the start.
Con opened the door, coffee cup in hand. It was hot so his jacket was draped over his chair. He was just wearing a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a tie tossed over his shoulder.
“What is it? Who is he?” He asked not stopping for air between questions.
She speed read through first page. Her mind reeling to keep up, She passed it to Con and started on the next as he looked at it and tried to process the scope of it.
It was a black and white sheet, a fingerprint card with a picture of man with dark hair on it. “Cisco Nulidad, it says he’s French, wanted by Interpol, twenty three years old, Christ!”
She burned through the next page and passed it over to him.
“Wanted for impersonating minors to gain access to children’s shelters. known Alias; Frederic Beard, Benjamin dianason, Jimmy Peter Manfred, Hurny Wright.” He flipped the page over in disbelief. “The list just goes on and on, these are all missing kids he’s impersonated. This is all over Europe. Luxembourg, spain, france, Germany, Belgium, Milan, Glasgow, Bosnia, paris, bourdeaux, this is crazy”.
She finished another page and passed it to him.
“Known nationalities, Australian, Uruguayan, Canadian, Mexican. A history of lying about abduction and sexual abuse. Suicidal tendencies, designated an extreme flight risk”. He looked at Nancy and back at the page in sheer disbelief.
“He’s a fake”. He said.
Porter steadied himself, his food growing cold in front of him. “How?”
“From the start?” Nulidad said.
“From the start”
Ciscoe cleared his throat and started to look around. He took his cap off and Porter noticed he had somewhat of a receding hairline and his roots were even darker now.
“Well I make a phone call and I pretended to be a couple who found a missing boy. I said he was scared and lost and they picked me up and I pretend to be very scared. I put into their minds they have a child, I don’t even need to tell them I was abused, they say that.”
He took a sip of his lemonade and he almost looked pleased with himself. There was something fun about it for him, like a magician revealing his secrets to the world, the world of one.
“They take me to the shelter and they tried to find out who I was but they couldn’t. I didn’t let them print me take photos, but they threaten to. I just wanted to stay in the shelter. So I say to them leave me alone in the office at night. Because I tell them I’m an American and because of the time zone difference I need to call at night”.
He breathed in. “So I search, I know on the phone in that office, no one can hear me, I can convince anyone on the phone. I called police stations in the U.S. I tell them I am police and we have a missing American child. I try to find a child that matched my description. After a while I found a woman in San Antonio who told me about a missing child, Johnny Bartlett”.
He looked around at the children at the birthday party, the cake came out candles and sparklers lit. He swallowed and went on. “She sent me a fax with his picture and I looked at it and I saw the date. Been missing for a few year, it was old picture, I know there would be a change and I tell them they had a match. I call Peggy on the phone pretending to be err police and I tell her we found Johnny. ” He paused and a little something wormed into his smile, regret maybe. “I washed her brain.” He went on fresh. “The next day I proved to the people at the home who I was and they called the embassy and the fbi.”
“I didn’t stop because I didn’t know what I was doing, I couldn’t stop”. He started to eat, taking bites of the toast, chewing while he continued speaking. “But fuck, when the embassy they sent colour pictures of Johnny, I see he has blue eyes and blonde hair, fuck me, I burn them. I wish I could burn every word I say up to that point. So I had no choice, I dye my hair, I get the dark glasses and cover my face and I get a girl in the home to do the tattoos. I thought if I could get the hair and tattoos and she couldn’t see my face she wouldn’t know I wasn’t her brother, I’d have a chance.”
“I didn’t even know if he was left or right handed. I couldn’t be him because I didn’t know him, I couldn’t think anymore. I just think of what prison will be like when I go.” He said taking a slurp from his lemonade.
“I thought about running away, I thought about it but it was too late, Peggy was on a plane and coming to get me, I was trapped. She show up and I hide, I didn’t think she’d accept me. I thought as soon as she see me she say ‘Who the fuck is that? That’s not my brother!’. I knew I was about to lose everything I had no choice, I knew I couldn’t wait no more, it was too late to run, I couldn’t disappear. So I open the door and I went down to meet her and she didn’t wait two seconds. She jump on me. She starts kissing and cuddling me and telling me she recognise me. She accept me right away, to her I was her brother, no question.”
“She tell me everything would be fine, only god knows why she would do that. Then she started showing me pictures, dozens of pictures. ‘You remember this is when you were playing with scotty.’ ‘Jason looks older’, just over and over, drilling it into my head.
He swallowed “I wasn’t pretending to have another identity, I stole one.” He sighed and went on as if it was a play or a game.
Porter stayed still like he was listening to a radio play.
“All I had to do was get on a train and go anywhere, but something tell me to stay. I can’t describe, I wanted to feel loved, because I never have that before. My mother have me very young and didn’t want me so I thought I could steal one who did”.
He looked off out of the window at the busy intersection and all that nothing. “I think America, I think big city, skyscraper you know? But when I get here it’s all this nothing, all this country, so much space.”
He was talking louder and more confident than he had since he got here and he smiled and shook his head. “And then I met you, I already leak to the media about me. Because I thought if the media, the whole world see me and hear my story, it would make Johnny more real, even to me”. He looked down at the table “I wanted people to feel sympathy, to love me”.
“How many French adult live the American dream?” He laughed a little as he said it.
“How did you get away with it? The embassy doesn’t just throw out U.S passports to anyone.” Porter voice came out of nowhere. He’d just been sitting there listening dumbstruck for what seemed like hours he’d forgotten how to talk.
Nullidad didn’t seem to notice and he looked off past him. “I had help.” He clenched his jaw and said. “I thought I’d fooled them but I fool myself, I see now they were the fakes from the start”.
“What do you mean? Who?”
He looked into Porter’s eyes. “She help me, I see now she coach me. The embassy they give me a test they show me pictures from Johnny family and they test me to see if I remember. ” He licked his lips and leaned forward with his hands on the table. “Peggy she tell them that I haven’t seen them but she’s telling me over and over showing me pictures. ‘Do you remember this, do you remember this person, you remember this, you remember that? That’s your uncle this, your aunt this, your cousin, your mother, your grandmother’. She did it over and over and she make me remember, she coach me and I passed”.
“Who your sis- Peggy?”
“Yes” He paused. “It was just so much I couldn’t think at the time that she knew they would test me. She helped me to cheat, it was such a normal conversation. I couldn’t see what she was doing, I just thought she really wanted me to be him, she wanted it so bad for me to remember”.
Nullidad swallowed and said “I thought she just really wanted me to be her brother. She made me her brother, she didn’t believe it for a second. She knew I wasn’t her brother, she wanted me to be him, nomatter what.” He looked down and breathed in. “I was convince, it was luck, I realise now there was no way they couldn’t see through me, who wouldn’t know there own child? They pretended.”
He swallowed and kept rambling. “I thought I was the fake, the imposter. I’m just a stupid person who wanted to be someone else, they were the real fakes. They knew Johnny was never coming back and they used me to hide that. I was the fool all along.”
He poked at his food and said “My lie was small, I lied about being someone I was not. Their lie is everywhere, it touches everything, it’s all around, it encircles me and I can’t escape.”
Porter banged his fist on the table, a sudden surge of nervous rage shooting through him. “What about Johnny?” Cisco looked up his eyes narrow and frightened. “I’m sick of listening to you feel sorry for yourself, what happened to Johnny?”
“They killed him”.
Porter shrunk back in his seat, all the hairs on his arms felt electrified, standing on their ends. He got that cold feeling in his stomach like he knew it all along. He knew it.
Nullidad looked down at his feet. “Some of them knew about it, some of them kept quiet about it, some of them did it”.
Nullidad licked his lips and filled the silence that was growing. “For a long time I worried that the real Johnny would come back. But one night, Angela, she drink, she was drunk and she tell me. I heard her say, Johnny is dead, it was an accident, but Johnny is dead. I knew it was true and I never worry about him coming back after that.”
“Why did you do that to your face?”
“I knew no one believe me, I could’t be Johnny anymore.”
“What about Jack, why did you run?”
“I don’t know, I have bad feeling and I wait for him to go pay for the gas and I run”.
Porter’s eyes glassed over and his face was flat and expressionless. “Why should I believe any of this? How can I believe you?”
Nullidad paused and rolled his head back and forth looking for an answer and when it didn’t come he said “You can’t.”